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September 24, 2012

Raising a Reader

Contributed by: Lisa Dagg M.S. CCC-SLP

It seems like every year there is another new trend in education or child development that makes headlines and has parents clamoring for classes, materials, or lessons to provide their child an extra boost. However, there is one thing that has stood the test of time and remains a cornerstone to developing early literacy skills and an interest in learning … reading to your child! It is perhaps the most simple but most important thing we can do to foster a child’s love for reading and to establish an early interest in books that can last a lifetime. As much as we have heard over and over again “read to your child every day” it’s hard to not let work, homework, practice, video games, tv, phones, and the business of life in general get in the way of this precious time with your child.

Here are a few tips to help that I have picked up from working as a Speech Language Pathologist and from being a mom to my two little boys with a very busy schedule:

  • Set a specific time for reading each day and stick to it! If its a normal part of your family’s routine you’ll be much more likely to do it every single day.
  • Kids love picking out books at the library with their very own library card.  My four-year-old is always so proud to show the librarian his card and the books he chose. We make it a point to check-out with the “real” librarian instead of at the automated computer. This is an affordable (free!!!) way to keep a new supply of stories in your house. For older children, its also a excellent teaching opportunity in responsibility, no one likes to pay late fees:).
  • Talk about the books you read together. Ask your child his/her favorite part or character, choose the illustration you like best and describe why, or make guesses about what might happen next.
  • Carryover life experiences into literacy and vice versa. If you hare planning on going to the pumpkin patch this fall, it’s a great time to head to the library now and scoop up some stories about pumpkins, fall, and farms. Or if you read a book with your child recently about fish, head to the pet store or aquarium to bring the story to life and reinforce the new vocabulary.
  • Make sure your kids see you reading. They learn by watching you and if mom and dad love to read (books, magazines, newspapers) that is exactly what they will want to do with their free time too.
  • Take it on the road.  Pack a book in bag or throw a few in the car and use it when you need to pass a few moments waiting in line at the bank drive-through, in the doctors waiting area, at the bus stop, or on a long drive. Try engaging your child with a book and share the activity together versus handing them a video game to play alone.
  • Let your child’s interest lead your book selection but keep them open to new ideas as well. If your little one loves airplanes, butterflies, or dinosaurs there is no need to stick with children’s books only. Check out the non-fiction section to find some great books with lots of real pictures or do an internet search and see what you can find.
  • Don’t forget about picture story books that do not have any words. These books provide an excellent opportunity for children to narrate the story and and develop expressive language skills. Two of my favorite examples are “Tuesday” by David Wiesner and “Pancakes for Breakfast” by Tommie dePaola.
  • Provide your child opportunities to see how reading is used in everyday life. Point out examples of reading on street signs, menus, games, maps, etc.
  • Encourage your older children to read aloud to you or to a younger sibling. This helps build confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Most importantly, HAVE FUN!
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